Raising the Stakes for the Votes of Our Generation
October 1st, 2004
“If you don't express yourself, you won't get what you want,” senator Jon Corzine once told a group of young adults at Rider University. "Politicians focus on issues such as Medicare and Social Security because 64 percent of senior citizens vote in elections – compared to 37 percent of 18- to-24-year-olds.”
Do you know which age group votes the least, and has the least impact on American politics? It's our age group – or at least, the voting bracket we'll all be entering in one to four years. According to ABC News, the 18 to 24 age group constitutes 13% of the voting age population, but only about 5% of the vote in the last midterm election.
That's only about 9 million youths who cared enough about our country to go out and vote. Meanwhile, last year's American Idol contest accrued 75 million votes during its run. Houston, we have a problem.
I know, I know. You’re a busy Stuy student. You function on five hours of sleep (or less) and you can’t spare an hour of your time for political action. You are too young to vote.
Never fear – some of the most effective ways that people our age can make a difference require little effort, and can prepare you for the days ahead when your vote will be counted towards the future of the country.
Voting is at the center of every citizen's political potential. On the high school level, it is something in which we cannot participate. However, people our age should take it upon themselves to vote as soon as they are legal.
The presidential race is not the only race worth filling out a ballot for. Be it mayor, governor, senator or congressman, our votes towards these positions will help increase the sway of the youth vote. As senator Corzine said, if politicians knew that young adults were in the voting booth, they'd start reaching out to us.
In the meantime, there are other ways of taking part in politics. You can call your senator or congressman to talk about issues that concern you. All congressmen have E-mail addresses and phone numbers, so it’s ludicrously easy to do this. (Case in point: Senator Charles Schumer’s phone number is 202-224-6542. Now you can call his office as soon as you step out of Stuyvesant.)
You do not need to flood the line to get noticed. A couple years ago, a congressman complained of being harassed by, “30 calls a day,” from the AFL CIO.
Quick, do you know 32 people with time to kill? Then you can “harass” a congressman, and share your political concerns. Organize your idle friends and send out a message to the people who supposedly represent you. It's easy to do, and if done with a group of people, your message will get to those in power.
The final and easiest thing that you can do, requiring hardly any deviation from your everyday life, is simply to talk to the people around you. Talk about your views. Talk about politics, and talk about the state of the nation.
If more students join in the political discourse, more students will become aware of politics. The greater awareness, the greater the student activity, and the greater the volume of our voices. The greater our power. Period. Even if nothing else changes about our nation’s youth and politics, if you become more aware of what is happening in the world, it will be a change for the better.
Nothing belongs to young people so blatantly and specifically as the future, and soon we will have to step up and claim it. The decisions that will affect our adulthood are being made now just as much as they will be made 10 or 20years down the line.
History shows that things are caused not by any single factor, but by a long chain of events. Getting involved now will give us a chance to shape this chain, and put us in real control of the issues affecting the rest of our lives.
I have given you my opinion on our political responsibilities. Now, go give somebody yours.